Common Sense Solutions

ICYMI (Dad, that’s short for “in case you missed it”), I wrote an article for kidsburgh.org about managing screen time. It was born out of the frustration I feel about the advent of Kindle Fires in my house.

The opening line? “The tablet computers were the worst Christmas present we ever gave our children.”

After writing the story, I will admit to feeling less despair about our computer tablet quandary. We put new guidelines in place (see below).

I will admit, though, I hate the constant monitoring. Setting timers, collecting the tablets when time is up, checking that they aren’t getting into topics they shouldn’t.

But, such is life with media and children. I will also tell you, if you are in a similar situation, Common Sense Media really does a good job of rating apps, TV shows, and movies for children; providing guidelines for parents; and providing a safe forum to ask questions and get feedback. I would highly recommend them as a go-to parenting site. It’s a new world, and children need boundaries. If you find it’s hard to set them for screen time, this site is a great resource.

In the meantime, here are some of the changes that Dan and I made when it seemed things were spiraling out of control (seriously, he took away all screens at one point, including the Wi-Fi router, which I asked him to return since I needed it to WFH).

New Rules on Tablets

Dear Flora, Kate, and Michael,

Tablets are not be available until after dinner. Please, don’t even ask.

Before you get tablets, the following tasks must be fulfilled:

  • Homework done, shown to mom, and approved.
  • Dishwasher empty, table set.
  • Q & A journals filled in and discussed.
  • After dinner: table cleared; dishes rinsed and put in dishwasher.
  • In bedrooms: beds will be made; clean clothes put away; dirty clothes put in hampers. Floors will be clear of paper, garbage, and books.
  • Lunches packed.
  • In front room: pillows and blankets will be put neatly on couches.

THIS MEANS EVERY DAY, MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. You may have tablets for an hour each weekday if the above conditions are met and/or activities have been attended (i.e. soccer practice, gymnastics).

On weekends, tablets will not be available until beds are made, breakfast has been eaten, and laundry has been taken next door. Tablet time on weekend is limited to two hours. If I get grief when I ask you to do a chore for the household, you will lose 10 minutes.

If you come in my room before 8 a.m. to get your tablets, you will lose 30 minutes.

The kitchen table and bedrooms are tablet-free zones. Tablets will not be allowed in the car except on long trips. They are not to go to school EVER; they are not to go to friends’ houses or on sleepovers.

Lying to me or dad about tablet use will result in an immediate suspension for 24 hours.

One more call from or conference with your teachers indicating you are not doing your school work will result in tablets going away AT LEAST until the summer.

++
I will also tell you: These rules keep Dan and I in check when it comes to our phones. We have to respect our own rules in order for our children to respect them. Mileage varies, but I think we are all getting better at setting limits for ourselves, and figuring out what to do when the screens are off.

Do you have rules about screen time? Why or why not?

I Give Up

Wednesday night, there was quite a brou-ha-ha at Casa di RPM. People were very angry, and children were very upset. Much strum und drang.

And so I opened a beer, and drank it with dinner.

“NOPE,” I tweeted. “I’LL GIVE UP TV INSTEAD.”

So my sacrifice didn’t even last a week. But I gotta tell you: I didn’t lose my shit Wednesday night. I dealt with the fallout from an earlier decision with aplomb. I had a calm talk with my very distraught 11-year-old about the situation, explaining it to her.

(Short story: Dan is done with the state of our house — cluttered, messy, disorganized. He took all screens away. I mean, he took away the wi-fi router and the Blu-Ray player. NO SCREENS. Until such time as he determines the house is better. He did it without giving me a heads up first, which was upsetting to me as well as to the children. But I’m on his page. Things have got to change.)

(Although I did tell him to return the router. I need that for work.)

However, not all was in vain. Now that I recognize my dependence on alcohol, there are ways I can effectively change my habits to address it, and my anxiety.

(Somewhere my cousin Tommy D is gloating.)

For example, although cocktails are fun, I probably shouldn’t fix one every night. I am going to save them for Friday or Saturday. (Dan is going to be disappointed.)

A daily meditation and/or rosary should become part of my routine. Especially right before bed, I think.

In general, perhaps I shouldn’t drink every day. I don’t know; I waver on this one at this point. People take daily medication to deal with things like anxiety and depression. I know “self medicating” is a bad term, but this week has possibly revealed that I have a choice here: a daily drink or prescription meds.

Or, you know, maybe a little more yoga and deep breathing. Music during dinner prep (h/t to Hope for that suggestion). Kitchen dance parties with the children as we clean up after dinner.

More daily writing. More checking things off to-do lists. (More making of to-do lists. Getting shit done is my Zen, and making to-do lists helps me get shit done.)

Whatever works to round my jagged edges and make me a kinder, gentler mother and wife.

I surmise that my drinking habit — daily, one or two — is what most drinking looks like. Unless you are a college student, in which case slow down, cowgirl. Teetotalers and/or raging alcoholics are extremes, and most of us just don’t live in extremes.

Or maybe I should drink chamomile tea every now and again.

Are you a daily imbiber?

bourbon and potatoes
Booze and potatoes. The makings of any good weekend, right?

Random Thoughts: The Battles to Fight Edition

1. The What to Drink Battle
Flora wants to drink pop — what she calls soda, so I’ve done a bad job being a yinzer parent. And I have let her drink pop and iced tea; nothing is really taboo in our house. But now I need to set limits with it. (Thanks, Soda Stream!)

I am starting to notice that pop is the only thing she wants to drink. So, now I need to fight that battle. I recently told her she was limited to one serving of pop or iced tea in a day, and no caffeine after school. She needs to drink water or milk with meals and night-time treat. I am concerned about calcium intake — no one in my house drinks enough milk. But we all do yogurt, leafy greens, cheese, and broccoli, plus calcium-fortified orange juice. I just bought the children calcium chewy vitamins to try to make up some of the deficit.

2. The Proper Phone Etiquette Battle
Kate asks to call one of her friends at least once an evening. I limit her time (10 to 15 minutes), and ask her to stay in earshot. I am slowly teaching her how to use the phone. It’s surprising to me… that they don’t know how? I mean, can that be a thing? Some phone etiquette rules I have had to explicitly lay out:

  • Say hello, then either ask, “Who is this?” or identify yourself.
  • Ask for whom you are calling. “Can I please speak to Julie?” Or, ask who is calling and for whom.
  • Don’t yell into the phone.
  • Don’t eat while on the phone. (A lot of adults don’t know this one, so.)
  • Don’t say, “BRB,” put the phone down, and walk away. I can’t believe I had to explain this. You don’t go pee in the middle of the phone call.
  • At the end of the call, say, “Goodbye” and end the call.
Rotary Telephones
Anyone else remember these? Image credit: Suwannakitja Chomraj

The phone, I am trying to explain to her, is a tool to communicate plans (“Let’s go ride bikes.”) or have a conversation — a short conversation.

I, personally, hate talking on the phone. I would much rather text or email, or interact on social media than have an actual phone conversation. But I guess I need to brace myself that talking on the phone is something my girls may want to do.

I’m not happy with this development, furthermore, because one of the little girls she talks with on the phone… *sigh* probably needs some of these lessons as well. I don’t know if she’s hard of hearing, or talking in a room full of loud noise, but I hear Kate repeating herself over and over again. Plus sometimes the little girl’s little sister will call, and believe me, nothing is more frustrating than finding yourself on the phone with a tongue-tied 6-year-old.

3. The Sit Down and Eat Battle
Eating as a family is important, and I try to sit down with the children every dinner time, and at least once on the weekends, we eat as a family of five. Some nights, though, I am ready to throw in the towel on this. They jump up to show me stuff; Flora wants to read a book at the table (hello, mini-me); they sing, they goof around. They eat two bites and declare they are full.

I’m just waiting this one out. I try to direct conversation and keep things below a dull roar. Kate and Michael especially treat the kitchen table like a stage. Maybe they need a bit more one-on-one time BEFORE dinner.

4. The Screen Battle
This is of course related to the Homework Battle, which is incrementally improving. Limiting screen time is hard, y’all. Especially when computer time is part of their homework, as it is for Flora. Again, I persevere, but man. Some days, I want to throw up my hands and say, “Sure, watch all the YouTube you want. I give up.”

They say, “Pick your battles” and I sure have. How about you?

Turning Homework Fails into a Parenting Triumph

Homework has never been my children’s favorite. It’s probably no child’s favorite, ever. Although Michael loves when I give him “homework” — because it makes him feel like a big kid, I’m sure.

This post is not about Michael.

I got a phone call yesterday that derailed me. Turns out one of my children was not completing her homework. And I didn’t know about it because every time I said, “Is your homework done?” she said, “Yep!”

And I believed her.

Pile of homework
Not very popular in these parts. (Image by Ed Sweetman)

Now, I will be upfront here and say: the other girl is not great about homework either. I have asked them to do it when they get home from school. One of them starts at Bella and Tadone’s and doesn’t finish, and the other doesn’t start until I get home, and we fight about it while she does it at our kitchen table. Which just makes it take that much longer.

So. This is the current state of homework at Casa di RPM.

I took awhile to process my feelings after the phone call. I was furious at being lied to; I was disappointed that my child was lying; I was even embarrassed that the teachers had to call. I was frustrated with my own failure to be on top of the situation. And while all of my feeling are valid, I couldn’t deal with the situation by being reactive and emotional when dealing with it.

I came up with a plan and consulted with Dan. We agreed on a strategy. And when the girls got home, I sat down, first with one, and then both, and talked about how we were going to do homework from now on.

And it starts with no screens. No television, no computer, no mini-Monk (this is what Bella calls her tablet, it’s a long story), no Minecraft. And it’s not “no screens until homework is done.” For at least the next two weeks, it’s no screens until night-time showtime at 7:30 p.m. One half-hour of television each day. That’s it.

I have no doubt my children are going to be bored. We will play games, they can read books, I will read books with them, they can do chores. (Flora is actually very good about doing her chore each day, which is emptying the dishwasher. The other two — yes, Michael has chores — are not as good, but they are getting better.) They can play with Legos and cars and superheroes; they can draw pictures.

And then in two weeks, we will see if things have improved.

One of my children was very upset during the conversation. She knew her teachers had called; she knew what the problem was; she didn’t want to keep being lectured. (My father is chuckling to himself right now.) I let her be upset. I let her cry and show her frustration. I think she was embarrassed and I think she was angry at letting us down. The other child was more receptive.

I did not talk about my feelings. Dan did not talk about his feelings. We didn’t tell the girls how smart they are. We didn’t tell the girls how disappointed we were. We calmly talked about the problem, the solution, how we were going to reach the solution, and how we were going to measure the solution (teacher conferences). We let the girls express their feelings, and we let them know it was okay to feel the way they were feeling (sad, angry, frustrated, uninterested in homework). However, despite their feelings, we were going to solve the problem.

Together. As a team.

What failure have you turned into a triumph lately?

Adventures in Mothering

Thursday is Michael’s favorite day.

Since I work from home on Thursday, and we are trying to save money on daycare costs, I keep him home with me that day. (Tuesdays, he is with Tadone.)

Michael basically treats it as “anything goes” day, and within reason, he’s not far wrong. He is allowed to play Minecraft and watch Netflix shows all day. He can stay in his pajamas as long as he wants.

He can watch Turbo and eat popcorn at 10:30 a.m. As long as he is not interrupting me or trying to play in the knife drawer, I leave him to his own devices.

So, yes, he’s not closely supervised. Although, believe me, we interact at least once an hour. We usually have lunch together. We even sometimes go for a walk.

Well, yesterday, he was bouncing around, coming to see me for food or drink, or to switch between Netflix and Minecraft. At one point around 7:30 a.m., he brought me a bag of chips to open.

“Is this your breakfast, buddy?”
“No.”
“Well, are you going to eat this now?”
“Yes. But it’s not my breakfast.”

I simply did not have the wherewithal to explain what the word “breakfast” literally meant, so I opened the bag of chips.

Around 10:30, he declared that he did want breakfast, meaning a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. So I poured him some, and went back to work. Shortly after eating his cereal, he came to ask me to put on Netflix. As we were waiting for the titles to load, he said, “There’s something squishy in my ear.”

I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about. M has never been one to stick things in orifices (knock on wood) — no beans or Legos up noses or anything. And we don’t use Q-Tips.

Well, when I got him under a light and looked at his right ear, I realized it was filled with blood — or at least, was bleeding and/or scabbing up.

It did not look good.

I called the pediatrician, got an appointment, threw clothes on both of us (I was wearing a tee shirt and yoga pants), and lit out for the office.

As my mother-in-law says, nothing makes you weak in the knees like seeing your child bleeding.

The pediatrician found a small laceration in M’s ear canal. He said he wasn’t able to see the whole eardrum, but he saw enough to determine the eardrum hadn’t ruptured. He prescribed drops to prevent an infection or swimmer’s ear, and told us to treat it and watch it. If it’s not cleared up in about a week, we’ll have to head back.

So that was fun!

M writing words!
I love you too, buddy. Don’t scare me like that, huh?

M was a brave boy at his appointment, didn’t cry, didn’t try to prevent the doctor from looking in his ear. I tried to take him for ice cream, but our favorite place, Kips, didn’t open until 3 p.m., so we went to Bruegger’s instead. And he was so good! He sat quietly while I ordered, ate almost his whole bagel with egg, and stayed in his seat. When I sat down, he noticed I had gotten chips.

“What are those?” he asked.
“They are potato chips,” I said. “I will share them with you if you want.”
“And I will share my bagel with you!” he declared, spreading his hands like a benevolent little prince.

He was so well-behaved, the workers insisted on giving me a cookie for him. I offered to pay, and they were like, “NOPE. On the house, lady. He’s adorable, and he was a little angel.”

The rest of the day was far less adventurous. M took his drops, watched some Phineas and Ferb, and I got some more work done.

Flora came home a few minutes late. She walked into the office, gave me a hug, and said, “The high school band is practicing. Can I go watch them?”

“But you have homework.”
“I’ll take it with me.”

So, I said yes. They were practicing in the parking lot near our house. She rode her bike over, and she took her homework. And did it too.

Kate came home last, and nothing extraordinary was going on with her, although she says her throat’s been hurting. So, we’ll have to keep an eye on that. Drinking water seems to help, so maybe she just needs a water bottle for school.

And then Dan and I figured out how I could go out to dinner with some of my LTYM friends — drop the children off at his office — so he’s basically the best husband in the world.

What was your latest mundane adventure?

Back to School: The All About Me Edition

Three days into the new school year, and I already have a scheduling conflict. C’mon!

I will say that the girls have adjusted thus far very well to their new schools. Flora came home Monday and declared, “TODAY WAS PERFECT.”

Flora on her first day of school.
First day of fifth grade!

Of course, my cynical little brain voice said to itself, “Great. It’s all downhill from here.” But I smiled and gave her a hug, and said out loud and with sincerity, “I am so glad to hear that.”

Kate is having a bit of a rougher time. Her Monday orientation went well — I swear her homeroom teacher is all of 23 — and she was excited. She says her first day was fine, but then burst into tears because she forgot her lunch — I owe her teacher $3 — and she doesn’t like the little boy who sits next to her. She says he wouldn’t leave her alone, and said he was going to eat her brain. So. We will have to keep an eye on that.

Kate's first day of school, 2015.
Think positive! Kate on the first full day of third grade.

It’s quite an adjustment for Dan and me, too. Flora’s bus comes at 7. Which means I am hitting snooze at 5:30. In order to continue with my workout routine, I have to get up even earlier than I have been. Which means bed by 10 p.m. I am not good at early bedtime, but I am going to try harder. On the bright side, I am often at work before 8 a.m., and even an open office is pretty damn quiet at 8 a.m.

It also means that Dan is getting Kate and M out the door, which is a big change for him. We do get a lot ready at night — lunches packed, clothes laid out (I have to get into this habit myself), papers signed, book bags ready. Again, three days into the routine, and it’s been going pretty smoothly. Flora lets me walk her to the bus stop; she even holds my hand crossing the street.

One of these mornings I will stop getting choked up when the bus drives off. Right?

Michael has a whole new schedule this year, too. He’s only going to daycare on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. His pre-k class meets those days starting after Labor Day. Tuesdays he goes to Tadone’s and Thursday he stays home with me.

Thursday will be known as pajama and Minecraft day. Because mama’s gotta work.

Next up for me will be meeting new parents — again — and finding ways to get involved in the school — again. The mere thought makes me very, extremely tired. Plus: TWO schools! (Three if you count M’s.) I mean, how am I gonna do that? Plus soccer for Flora — community league, not through the school — and we have to find an activity for Kate.

I do have one completely positive thing to report. Okay, two.

First, the week before school started, I declared that Sunday through Thursday, all screens are going off at 8 p.m., and we have stuck with that. They don’t have to go straight to bed, but this starts the transition to bedtime. Screens off, snacks finished, everything prepped for the morning. Showers for everyone, M first because he’s the youngest.

And then — and this is BIG for me, HUGE — I get M in his pajamas, read him a book, play him a lullaby, kiss and hug him, AND LEAVE THE ROOM.

I stopped laying down with him while he was supposed to be falling asleep. We talked about it a couple of times — not at bedtime — and my focus has simply been that he is a big boy and old enough to fall asleep on his own. It hasn’t been a completely smooth transition. He still sometimes cries that he is scared. I gave him a radio, and we leave the door open to the hallway. I give extra hugs and kisses. But I am getting an entire hour back at night by not laying in bed with him waiting for him to fall asleep.

Again: so far, so good. Flora has been getting up on her own with an alarm — another HUGE change from last year. I wake Kate and M before I leave, try to get them moving. So far, I have managed one Pilates workout, and one workout with my trainer (Jillian Michaels), and we have been on time for the bus. Even though as of Wednesday they moved the pickup time up by 10 minutes.

Sure, no problem.

Only nine months to go!

How is back to school treating you?

Random Thoughts: The Monday Music Edition

First item: A study finds that empathic people like mellow music, and “systemizing” personalities — that is interest in understanding the rules underpinning systems — favor “intense music”.

Here’s the article about the study.

So now, when Dan asks why I listen to angry music (his term), I can say that I am interested in underpinning systems.

Dan is a psychologist, and a damn good one. Guess what kind of music he prefers.

++

Second item: The other night in the car, Flora was switching radio stations around. We came across Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” and I made her leave it on. You would think I was driving bamboo shoots under her nails from her reaction.

After it was over, she lost no time in finding a country music station.

Man, I hate country music.

This is, of course, the nanny’s fault. She is a country fan. So part of Flora’s rebellion will take the form of listening to country, apparently.

What do you think? Should I limit the listening of country to her room? My rule in the car is that it has to be at least mutually tolerable. Country is not mutually tolerable.

Sorry, Kim. It’s just not.

Curse you, Country!
Curse you, Country!

But I’m not going to forbid it. I know how that ends.

What do you do when you are with someone whose taste in music is wildly divergent from yours?

Going Public

Dan and I decided to send the girls to public school next year, and possibly the year after. It’s part of the attempt to get our financial house in order, a task that is proving more challenging than I thought it would.

I’ve been filling out the paperwork for about the past week now — so much paperwork! — and I should be turning it in next Monday. I’m hoping to get things squared away in time to get Flora on the soccer team, and see what activity Kate wants to pursue. We’ve told the girls the plan. They seem apprehensive, but not overly anxious.

Based purely on finances, sending the children to public school is a no brainer. Aside from tuition, costs associated with private school are not inconsequential. Costs of time as well as money, and while I happily give as many hours as I can, it can be wearing. I am hoping there will be opportunities to participate as a parent at the schools my children will be attending next fall, but I won’t have to stress out about getting my volunteer hours or meeting my fundraising obligation. Plus, they will be busing to and from school, and thus we will be saving money on extended day care, which was a huge expense for us.

But based on other things, choosing to send our girls to public school is fraught for me and Dan. We feel terrible that we can’t afford it right now. We work so hard, and we feel like we just can’t get ahead. We will have to work harder to continue to pursue their religious education. I’d like to get them will rooted in a faith tradition.

Additionally, I worry about the social upheaval for the girls.

Flora said to me recently, “Do you think I’m good at making friends?” I answered honestly that I did think she was good at making friends. I think Kate is good at it too. They are easily social, comfortable with themselves, and not overly shy. I also think that at the ages they are now, making friends for children like them is a natural, organic process. They aren’t yet crippled by the self-consciousness that comes with teenage-hood and the social pressures of that age.

Kate vacillates. “I’m nervous. What will I say?” or “I’m going to be fine at my new school. It’ll be good.” She wants to work on a script for when she introduces herself in her classroom.

They don’t start for six weeks. This child.

Kate and Jester.
THIS CHILD!

Anyway, my biggest challenge at this time is trying not to show the children how anxious I am for them. Because I am anxious — probably overly so. I wish I didn’t have to make this change for them. What if their current friends forget them? What if no one talks to them their first day? Who will they have lunch with? What if classes are harder or easier than they were at their old school? What if children make fun of them for being Catholic?

Ultimately, aside from religious education, I don’t think sending them to public school will be a problem in the long run. Our school district is a good one. Dan and I will be involved. I’m looking forward to the diversity at the new schools. That will be a refreshing change.

How do you feel about making big changes for someone else?

Last day of school outfits
True colors.

12 Things to Keep the Children Busy This Summer (Around the House and Yard)

I have the distinct impression that my children think they are going to vegetate and stare at screens for most of the summer. While I am sure they are looking forward to great swaths of unstructured time — and I will let them have such — they are also going to have Stuff to Do.

Last day of school outfits
Enjoy your last day, sweeties! Mama’s got plans for you!

I am sure they will not believe me, but: children do better with structure. It doesn’t need to be rigid. I’m not going to punish them if they decide they don’t want to build with Legos. But I also can’t have them 1) whinging about being bored; 2) asking to go a lot of places that cost money; 3) bugging me for ideas every five minutes while I am working at home; 4) asking to watch a show, go on my computer, or play Minecraft every five minutes.

1. Chores. Every day, they will have to make their beds, clear and rinse dishes, put clean dishes away, and pick a chore from the chore jars. (Water plants, sweep kitchen floor, etc.) I need to remake the chores to put in these babies, but I’m perfectly happy to do that. Somehow or another, all the popsicle sticks I had got used for other arts and crafts projects.

chore jars
Pick one!

2. Math. Flora struggled with math and science this year, and I wasn’t around to help much. Her teacher and I never managed to meet, either. Kate started the year in tutoring for math, and “graduated” out of the program this spring. We are very proud of her, and yes, she is getting a little reward.

I received an offer for this site from Amazon, and signed up the girls. They are *horrified* that I did such a thing. But doing well on these lessons (I am not sure if they are daily or not) will ensure continued access to computer and Minecraft time.

3. Drawing “camp.” The people at DIY.org clearly recognize that children like to spend time on the computer, and have curated a whole lot of “camps” to help it be productive time. They ran special offers on Facebook. I saw the offer for $10 month-long make-a-drawing-a-day camp, and promptly signed Flora up. She’s going to love it.

4. Make play dough/Play with play dough. I learned to make play dough this past year for one of Kate’s school projects, and this is going to be something we do. Make a bunch of colors; play with them; store them; make more when it runs out. Cream of tartar is a major ingredient — play dough, meringue, and snickerdoodles all call for it.

5. Baking/cooking. When they are done making play dough, they can bake us up some snickerdoodles! Other things they can make: s’mores dip; chocolate chip cookies bars; brownies. We can probably start working some dinner stuff into the rotation.

6. Books. Each day they will need to do 30 to 60 minutes of silent reading. Obviously, this will be hard for M, but I figure Kate can read with him, or the nanny will.

7. Activity. Head outside for *at least* 30 to 60 minutes. I am hoping that they will get into a game or other activity, and lose track of time enough that this goes on longer than a half hour. Bike riding needs to be an option — which means I have to get my butt to a thrift store to get bikes for Kate and M. I’m saving that for after Chicago.

8. Build something. Use Legos. Or blocks. Or cardboard boxes and glue. Heck build forts for silent reading time! Another 30-minute activity.

9. Draw or paint something. Pretty straight forward. *Note to self*: buy some acrylic paint for the girls. They want to start customizing their LPS and MLP.

10. Play in the sprinkler.

11. Do a science experiment — make goo; make invisible ink; etc. Flora has a couple of good books of experiments. I’m sure there are scads of websites out there too. (If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments.)

12. Write a letter or card. I’ll put it in the mail!

Obviously, they don’t have to plow through a dozen activities every day. I’ll draw up a calendar and a schedule. Once they are done with the day’s activities, screen time is open. I am also considering raiding a dollar store for little rewards that they can earn.

The other thing I will need them to do will be to pick activities and experiments they want to do, and make sure they are supplied.

How are you keeping the children busy this summer?

"Is It Hard to Be a Mom?"

This is the question Flora asked me yesterday as she set the table.

“Is it hard to be a mom?” I repeated.

“Yeah.”

I sighed. I hadn’t had the best day. I was noticeably weary when I picked my children up from Dan’s office. Kate had commented on it. “You sound tired,” she said. “I feel tired,” I answered.

“It’s not hard to be a mom,” I said to Flora. “It was harder when you were babies.” I decided to leave it at that.

“Oh, good,” she said. “I think I want to have two children.”

I could’ve said so much more.

Is it hard to me a mom?

It’s not hard to be a mom. It’s a delight to be a mom! If all I had to do was mother, I’d be golden.

F and K goofing
What could possibly be hard about being a mom to these two goofballs?

It is hard to be a mom, and be a cook, maid, chauffeur, and disciplinarian. That’s pretty tricky.

It’s hard to be a mom, and work 40 hours outside the home at a job that is unpleasant (at best) and occasionally makes you cry.

It’s hard to be a mom, and still prioritize your marriage in the right way. Being a good wife isn’t about the ’50’s model of a good housewife, but my marriage still has to come first. Part of being a good parent *is* being a good spouse and partner. But sometimes, that’s hard to remember. Sometimes you want to take out your frustrations on the person you’ve joined your life to instead of solving problems with him or her.

Dan and M in hammock
Why are you laying down?

It’s hard to be a mom and be a volunteer at school, show up for the activities, cheer from the sidelines, sit through the beginning band concert. It’s hard to be a school mom and fill out the approximately 4,632 forms and turn them in on time. It’s hard to be a mom when you worry if you can re-enroll your children in the school they have come to love and you realize you may need to explore a different option.

It’s hard to be a mom and pay all the bills in an organized fashion.

Mom pen
Because I’m looking for this pen half the time.

It’s hard to be a mom and be patient enough to ask the children again to do the thing you have asked them to do three, five, ten times already. It’s hard to be a mom and repeat the same thing on different days.

It’s hard to be a mom and teach the children to do chores.

it’s hard to be a mom and cobble together dinner every single night. Sometimes you just want to go out for pizza, you know?

It’s hard to be a mom and sweep the kitchen floor at 10 p.m. at night.

It’s hard to be a mom and try to figure out how to launch the next phase of your career, figure out when you are going to write and what, tack hours onto an already too full week so you can move on and earn a little extra scratch.

Being a mom is easier now, now that they are 10 and 8 and 4, and *can* do chores even though they don’t want to, and they can have conversations even though they still goof off at the dinner table, now that they can entertain themselves even if that’s a little more screen time than you originally hoped to expose them to.

I usually like being a mom now. I usually like the mom I am now.

But, yeah, it’s still a little hard being a mom when I mostly want to polish my toenails and sit on the couch reading a book.

It is hard to be a mom (or dad)?